Relief from heat in sight

may bring
some rain,
big smiles
Thursday, August 28, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:56 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

The heat wave that’s sent temperatures above 100 degrees for seven days this month is loosening its grip on mid-Missouri. MU Climatologist Pat Guinan said the stagnant weather pattern is about to break down.

With temperatures forecast to reach into the mid-90s today, Columbia schools will dismiss early for the fourth consecutive day.

While temperatures weren’t quite as high on Wednesday, school buildings remained hot. “To get any relief whatsoever, one would have had to go outside,” Assistant Superintendent Chris Mallory said. Though no serious heat-related illnesses have been reported this week, the kids are hot and school officials are monitoring them closely, Mallory said.

By Friday, temperatures should remain in the 80s with even milder readings just around the corner.

A cold front pressing toward mid-Missouri will end the blistering temperatures and bring a chance of much-needed rain for parched farm fields, pastures and yards.

Dale Bechtold, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in St. Louis, said mid-Missouri can expect one-quarter to 1 inch of rain from the approaching system. “Friday’s storm front is mid-Missouri’s best chance for rain in the last three weeks,” he said.

Guinan said it’s uncertain how far the moisture will go toward easing the drought that’s gripping much of Missouri.

“If there is a chance for breaking the drought, it will come in September and October,” Guinan said.

On the other hand, “another heat wave this year is climatologically unlikely,” Guinan said. “Seasonal transition is on our side; the sun is migrating southward, and the days are getting shorter.”

For some farmers, the drought has done its damage.

“Subsoil moisture never got replenished this year,” said Gene Danekas, state statistician of the Missouri Agricultural Statistics Service in Columbia. “That, combined with the heat and the lack of rain, has caused this year’s corn crop to detoriate faster than any before. No amount of rain at this point will help the corn now.”

Mid-Missouri corn growers without irrigation are suffering, Danekas said, adding that the outlook for soybeans is more optimistic.

“If an inch of rain soaks down to the roots, soybeans can still continue to fill pods,” he said. “Cooler tempertatures will also aid in their ability to thrive.”

Livestock farmers are also anticipating the upcoming rainfall. Many in the area have recently witnessed their pastures turn brown, harden and crack.

Jim Shaw, a local Angus cattle farmer, has combated the heat by rotating his pastures, allowing his cattle to use only a portion of a pasture at a time. Shaw said the majority of his pastures have gone dormant and his water supply has gone dry.

“I have used public water to water my cattle before, but now it is absolutely necessary,” Shaw said. “I can’t remember a time in my years of farming when the streams were completely dry.”

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